Monday, August 31, 2009


So far I have been in Italy for three weeks and it has been a rollercoaster. Instead of leaving with my unit to go train in Germany, I was left behind in order to get my apartment and final inprocessing completed. Fortunately for me I am almost done and I am headed to Germany tomorrow to join my boys in the field for the last 10 days of the exercise. Good news is that I have signed the lease on the new apartment and my car will arrive before I get back from Germany. So the 16th will be big day, collect my car, my new apartment keys, and finally be settled in.

As I was left on my own, it was up to me to find a way to explore the area beyond Vicenza and taste a little more of the area around me. So what do you do? You rent a tiny car.
This is the Fiat Sport 500. A cool little diesel that was honestly a lot of fun to drive. Italy is full of crazy drivers, round abouts, and tiny roads that apparently lead to no-where. Suffice to say, I enjoyed driving this silver go-kart. (As you can tell from the following picture
I found through the local paper, that there was a Celtic Folk Festival in the Dolomite mountains north of Vicenza. The Brintaal Celtic music festival has been held in Valstagna, Italy since 2001. This is Valstagna, a quaint little town that sits in a gorgeous valley complete with lazy river.
The center piece of the Festival is large white tent complete with Guinness and popular Celtic dishes.
There was free camping offered. So in true form, I rented a tent (my great REI tent is currently being shipped across the ocean at the moment) and set up shop right next to the river. When the local Italian kids camping near me found out who I was, from then on I instantly became "that American guy". The best part about the festival was that it was free! This is the German Celtic band "Faun". Very cool and between sets spoke in English which was a cool plus.
One of the best shots of the night.

The next day I came back to Vicenza to attend the local soccer match. On the way I had to have the typical Italian fast food, Kebap. Basically a Turkish burrito, the kebap is an amazing blend of meat shaved off a rotating roaster that is topped with lettuce, tomato, mayo, (the Italians like ketchup on it...kinda weird if you ask me) and hot sauce. Delicious.
At the ticket office I got 5 euro off my ticket because I was a soldier. I bought the cheap tickets which in fact where the best as they were filled with the local football hooligans! The game was a lot of fun and ended in a rain soaked tie. The best part was learning all the Italian swear words as the locals basically cussed out the opposing team at every instant.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Io non parlo italiano

I am finally in Italy! It has taken quite a bit of time and effort but I am finally at my official first duty station. I have been assigned to 2nd Platoon, Able Company, 2/5o3rd, 173rd Brigade Combat Team (Airborne).

I literally hit the ground running. I arrived in Venice around noon where my sponsor 2LT Jesse Jensen picked me up at the Marco Pollo airport. I had e-mailed Jesse earlier and we developed an instant re pore. He is a native of South Dakota who worked as a Senators aid before he joined the Army.

After arriving at Camp Ederle (the base where I am stationed) in Vicenza, I immediately went through the motions of a new LT arriving at a unit. I threw on my uniform and went to meet my new boss. Unfortunately my new maroon beret (maroon berets indicate you are part of an airborne unit) wasn't ready so I had to borrow Jesse's (which was a size to small). So as I walked with my new CO, CPT Jensen, I was focusing more on the goofy looking beret that was hanging off my head and not the intense questions he was asking me. After a short walk we arrived at a meeting where I briefly shook hands with my new Battalion commander, LTC Butler, a straight forward gentlemen who made me feel right at home. After that I went through the motions of getting into my office and checking out the company area.

The following day was my first chance to PT with the company. Once again I had interesting luck as I found myself doing SGT Latham's (my weapons squad leader) man making workout that involved 1,000 jump ropes front and back, 100 lay outs, and 100 clean lifts of a 125 pound sandbag. This was how I was "warming up" after Ranger school. However, everything worked out and I was able to hold my own.

Thursday turned out to be Banner day. A Battalion wide event that includes sports, festivities, and competitions that brings friends and families out in order to build cohesion within the unit. I was put on the company's basketball team, which brought me right into the company fold. We came in last, but I had a great time and got to know a few of the guys in my platoon and company.

This morning was my first chance to walk around downtown Vicenza. I was immediatly reminded by the HBO show "Rome" that features the interesting conversations that take place on urban graffiti. Of course the first graffiti I walked across was the following picture.
On the top left is "Fin la Ederle" (End Ederle) and on the bottom is "Furie America", which I will allow you to translate for yourself. Unfortunately, the American presence while long, is not completely welcome here. I look forward to getting to learning the real impact of the U.S. in this beautiful city and how Italians understand big America.

This is typical Vicenza, a lazy river flowing between beautiful old villa's complete with trees and flowers.

Throughout the city are public squares. This is in the heart of the cities pedestrian district, where locals and tourists alike are encouraged to walk through the history that is Vicenza.

You cannot walk through Vicenza without running into this man, Andrea Palladio, a 16th century venetian architect who is considered to be the single greatest influence on western architecture.

After a great walk through downtown Vicenza, I developed a genuine feeling that this is really where I am supposed to be. The culture, climate, and simple feel of Italy is amazing. I cannot wait to live downtown and enjoy the Italian life!